On August 24th, Dagwoods, a Quebec founded sandwich chain, turned 25 years old. What started as one man’s dream has turned into 21 thriving restaurants and Dagwoods founder and president, Sprio Krallis, has no intention of slowing down. In a city that is harder on restauranteurs than it is on its politicians, how does one man manage to succeed where so many have failed? Is it luck? Fate? Is it the sauce, the place, that Dagwoods taste? I had the opportunity to sit with Krallis and ask him a few questions about his success. But also, I wanted to put the rumours “has he ever made the special sauce in his bathtub?” to rest.
Ken Gaucher (KG): So how have you done it? How have you made it work?
Spiro Krallis (SK): Quality! Montreal likes good food so we’ve always used high quality meats. And fresh, everything is made fresh. Also, the people and the work environment, we try to make Dagwoods a good place to work. The first five franchises were opened by people who had worked at Dagwoods. I financed them and they did great jobs. We made it work.
KG: And the sauce?
SK: (Laughs) And the sauce. I came up with the Dagwoods Sauce a couple of weeks before the opening of the first store.
KG: Let’s talk about the first store a bit.
SK: The first store was on St. Jean Boulevard in the West Island. It was a bit out of the way, but the rent was cheaper and I had cousins in that neighbourhood I thought could help out with the store. There was a video store right beside that did a good business so that helped when we opened. Those cousins never ended up working at the store (laughing).
KG: When did you know it was time to open a second store?
SK: Oh I don’t know. I worked in the first store from morning to night, there was no budget for advertising; it was all word of mouth. But business picked up. It was always my intention to make franchises. The plan was to have three stores, then to franchise. The second store was St. Charles and then came St. Laurent. At our house, Saturday used to be Dagwoods day. The kids would help. We would make sauce and do deliveries all day. After the third store is when things took off. There are people from those stores that still work for Dagwoods today. We’re a family. Until just this year I had a BBQ in my backyard every summer for everyone who works at Dagwoods.
KG: What has changed at Dagwoods in 25 years?
SK: (Long pause) Nothing! (Laughs) Ok there are a few things. We added soups and chili, but basically we do things exactly the same as when I started. Oh yes, we added two new sauces, “Spicy” and “Wild.”
KG: How did you come up with the new sauces?
SK: Actually it wasn’t me that came up with the new sauces, it was some of the kids working at Dagwoods. There’s a debate going on because I have different stores claiming they did it. It’s all in good nature. That’s the kind of environment we try to create, one where the young people feel they can come up with ideas.
KG: Do you still eat at Dagwoods?
SK: I have a bowl of chili everyday.
KG: What is your favorite sandwich?
KG: I spoke to some of your employees and the legend goes that you used to make the Dagwoods sauce in your bathtub.
SK: (Krallis stares at me for a long time then breaks into a huge laugh) I never heard that one! Nope, I never made the Dagwoods sauce in my bathtub. I had this big blue bucket I used to make it in. I think that bucket is still around somewhere.
KG: What is next for you and for Dagwoods?
SK: Continue doing what I have been doing. Maintaining the quality and the culture of the business. We have expanded into Ottawa, they are doing a great job out there, the numbers look great.
For a man that has so much to brag about, Spiro Krallis is surprisingly humble. The old saying, “nice guys finish last” doesn’t seem to apply to the Dagwoods story which is a refreshing change. So remember,”You gotta love a Dagwoods sandwich.” Check out their website for up coming specials and apps.
Dagwoods is a sandwich chain located in various locations in Quebec and Ottawa. For more information, visit the Dagwoods website here.